Stations of the Elevated is a hiphop film that has no hiphop music. It's instead scored by some of Charles Mingus's most moody, rootsy, and spiritual compositions. There is also a little slice of Aretha Franklin doing what God put her on earth to do: church. It is screening in Seattle as part of this year's Earshot Jazz Festival. But the documentary, which is about graffiti on New York City's subway trains (a moment in urban history that, according to Wikipedia, came to an end in 1989, when the "last graffitied train was removed from service"), has a visual mode and editing structure that is profoundly hiphop. The film was shot, directed, and edited in 1981 by a German American, Manfred Kirchheimer (whose family fled the Nazis in 1936). Kirchheimer loops distinct images of places, things, and scenes next to or around the elevated rails; the jazz music is mixed in and out of these loops. Billboards appear, advertising sexy women, manly men smoking cigarettes, and hamburger-eating gorillas (gorillas are, by the way, vegetarians). Also looped are people waiting for trains or watching trains or looking at the colorful graffiti on trains, and young boys playing in bombed-out, postcapitalist neighborhoods. All that we see in this beautiful, poetic documentary is nothing less than the birthplace of hiphop. recommended

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